The Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) In a Nutshell
Attorney #1 Works in a toxic environment and feels as though she is swimming in a circle; slowly going under. Needs assistance with change.
Attorney #2 is using heroine. His life is out-of-control; he needs help.
Attorney #3 just lost his brother to a freak accident and is now the primary care giver to his aging parents.
How do these attorneys cope with their problems? They all found assistance through Lawyers Assistance Programs.
The Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) sees and hears stories similar to these, as well as others dealing with such issues as: life changes, depression, alcohol/chemical abuse/dependence, gambling addiction, and other problems regarding adulthood and aging. In a nutshell, DE-LAP is a confidential service that provides information and meaningful assistance to judges, lawyers and others in Delaware’s legal community.
Actually, the Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) is the equivalent of an Employee Assistance Program that you might find in large corporations or private companies. The only difference is that this Program is designed specifically for Delaware’s legal community, offers additional confidentiality, and peer support.
Employee Assistance Programs began approximately 30 years ago. Today, they a have become commonplace in work organizations, similar to vacation and 401 (k) plans. More than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies provide EAP’s to their employees and surveys show that as many as two-thirds of medium-sized firms offer them as well. The U.S. Department of Labor, the Society for Human Resource Management, and numerous other agencies and organizations promote EAP’s, not only as a means of assisting workers with alcohol and drug issues; but also to help maximize workforce performance and productivity.
Similarly, studies over the past years confirm that lawyers experience a high rate of depression, substance abuse/dependence, as well as other psychological, behavioral and physical symptoms that may be related to the stress of practicing law. It is estimated that at least 18 percents of lawyers may be dealing with the issues of chemical dependence. Other studies indicate that today 70% of lawyers will at some time in their professional career experience problems with substance abuse and/or dependence.
Considering the incidences of depression among lawyers, studies suggest that lawyers suffer from elevated feelings of psychological distress, including but limited to, feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, anxiety, social alienation, isolation and depression. Unfortunately, the legal profession tops the list in incidences of major stress and depression among the various professions. Fortunately, these diseases are generally treatable and recoveries are a reality.
Accordingly, The Supreme Court of Delaware, The Delaware State Bar Association and The Board on Professional Responsibility Office of Disciplinary Counsel realized that the legal profession is high risk for certain diseases and that treatment works. Therefore, a Committee on Lawyer Assistance was created to offer confidential support to attorneys. Today, Delaware joins the nations of Canada and England in having a formal program to assist judges and lawyers.
In a nutshell, DE-LAP includes a paid professional on staff that works with the original peer committee. The Executive Director is both a Certified International Employee Assistance Professional and a license Wellness Inventory Coach. Also, The Lawyer Assistance Committee remains the backbone of the Delaware Lawyers Assistance (DE-LAP) Program and is a network of over 20 Delaware attorneys who have volunteered their time to help a legal professional.
The Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) is an Exempt Organization under the Internal Revenue Code and is classified as an IRC 501 (c) (6) Organization as well as A Delaware Limited Liability Company.
How It Works
By identifying the problems, facilitating treatment and supporting in recovery, the Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) fulfills its mission:
To provide confidential assistance to Judges and Lawyers to help them identify and address problems such as depression, stress, substance abuse/dependence, gambling addiction and other illnesses and to assist them in developing effective solutions that culminates in a workplace atmosphere that encourages professional growth, excellence and maintains the integrity of the legal profession.
Person by person, the Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) is reaching out to help Delaware’s professional legal community.
Because of the sensitive nature of addiction and psychological problems, however, lawyers and judges who may be in need of help are often very reluctant to seek it. Therefore, in order to foster early and confidential contact with The Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP), The Delaware Supreme Court acknowledges the work of the Program and it’s need for confidentiality. More specifically it is written in the Professional Conduct Rules, Rule 8.3, and Reporting professional misconduct, p 158:
RULE 8.3 REPORTING PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT (a) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority. (b) A lawyer who knows that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge's fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority. (c) This Rule does not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by Rule 1.6. (d) Notwithstanding anything in this or other of the rules to the contrary, the relationship between members of either (i) the Lawyers Assistance Committee of the Delaware State Bar Association and counselors retained by the Bar Association, or (ii) the Professional Ethics Committee of the Delaware State Bar Association, or (iii) the Fee Dispute Conciliation and Mediation Committee of the Delaware State Bar Association, or (iv) the Professional Guidance Committee of the Delaware State Bar Association, and a lawyer or a judge shall be the same as that of attorney and client.
Therefore, the program design of The Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) is to provide a confidential. non-disciplinary way for Delaware’s Judges, lawyers and others working in the legal community to seek appropriate help for problems before they sabotage an individual’s career and/or quality of life. Referrals are confidential. Plus, any legal professional that seeks assistance as a self-referral can be assured that their information will be held in the strictest confidence. Similarly, those who are concerned about a co-worker, peer or other legal professional are guaranteed the same confidentiality.
DE-LAP Services Include, But Are Not Limited to
A trained member of the DE-LAP staff will meet with the legal professional either at the De-LAP office located at 405 N. King Street, Suite 100B, Wilmington Delaware (Use separate entrance) or off-site to evaluate the problem and recommend solutions. DE-LAP maintains an extensive, up-to-date network of licensed health-care professionals, who are familiar with the unique issues involved in working within the legal profession.
In appropriate situations, a member of the staff will plan, rehearse and facilitate a formal intervention to assist with the impaired or problem individual.
Peer Support Network:
The person in need of assistance or help may be paired with a member of the Lawyer Assistance Committee, in the person’s area as a mentor to help in the support and/or monitoring stage.
Structured Rehabilitation Program:
In cases involving formal action against the legal professional or a supervisory referral, The Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) can implement a structured rehabilitation program that documents a legal professionals efforts and success dealing with their problems.
Attorney Support Meetings:
The Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) sponsors weekly and monthly meetings where attorneys help each other deal with the problems and stresses of practicing law while maintaining balance in your personal life. The Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) also provides educational and other outreach activities/seminars.
If after reading this article you are concerned about yourself or another lawyer (judge), pick up the phone and call The Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) at (302) 777-0124 or toll-free 1-877-24-DELAP or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, Delaware judges and lawyers do not have to face overwhelming problems alone. Equally important, each call serves to chip away at the stigma associated with these diseases that often works to keep judges and lawyers sick and isolated from support and assistance.
Don’t Suffer Silently.
We do together What Need Not Be Done Alone!